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The Clockmaker Or, the Sayings and Doings of Samuel Slick, of Slickville   By: (1796-1865)

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The Clockmaker


The Sayings and Doings of Samuel Slick, of Slickville,

by Thomas Chandler Haliburton.


From the 1871 edition.

The name "Sam Slick" has passed into popular use as standing for a somewhat conventional Yankee, in whom sharpness and verdancy are combined in curious proportions; but the book which gave rise to the name has long been out of print. It is now revived, under the impression that the reading public will have an interest in seeing a work which, more probably than any other one book, served to fix the prevailing idea of the Yankee character. However true or false the impression it created, the qualities which rendered it popular a generation ago remain, in a shrewdness of observation, a fund of anecdote and racy adventure, a quaintness of expression, and keen mother wit. In no other work of literature is there preserved so large a collection of idiomatic phrases, words, and similes, whole stories in themselves and pictures of society at the time, which grow more interesting, the more historic they become.

The keen peddler comes sharply forward from a background of Provincial shiftlessness and dullness, and it is a mark of the geniality of the book that, although it seems to have had its origin in a desire on the part of its author to goad the Provinces into energy and alertness, the local questions and politics discussed give a flavour to the narrative without limiting the reader's interest. One does not need to be deeply concerned in Nova Scotia prosperity, nor versed in the turnings of petty politics, to take a lively pleasure in the sharp thrusts which the author, under shield of the Clockmaker's wit, gives at stupidity and narrowness. The two sides of the question involved are as little a matter of concern to the general reader as the opposing factions of York and Lancaster.

No doubt the marked contrast between the neighbouring people of Nova Scotia and New England was quickly discerned by so good an observer as the author proved himself to be, while his national and partisan judgments made his characterization of the Yankee to be a double edged sword, that cut with equal keenness the Colonist and the Democrat. While he has no liking for the United States politically, he is very glad to make their enterprise and industry put to shame the slow wits of his countrymen; and the quiet satire of United States institutions and character which he displays by letting Slick run to the end of his rope is curiously mingled with the contempt which he lets the same character express for Nova Scotians, and in which it is plain he himself joins.

Thomas Chandler Haliburton was born at Windsor, Nova Scotia, in 1796, was educated at King's College, and admitted to the bar in 1820. He entered political life shortly after, and was elected member of the House of Assembly. In 1829 he was appointed Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, and in 1840 was made Judge of the Supreme Court. He resigned in 1842, and went to England to reside, where, in 1859, he was elected member of Parliament for the Borough of Launceston, and at the dissolution of Parliament in 1865 he declined reelection on the score of infirm health. He died at Isleworth in July of the same year. His party politics were of the old Tory school, and he held rigidly by them, sharing the common experience of colonial partisans, who, on returning to the mother country, are very apt to set a higher value on their party principles than those who have always remained at home.

The first appearance of his "Clockmaker" was in the form of a series of letters to the "Nova Scotian" newspaper, in 1835. The contributions were collected into the present volume in 1837, and were eagerly read, both in America and in England, the wit of the book making it equally enjoyable on both sides of the water, while its pointed reflections raised a good deal of angry discussion also. Perhaps the most vehement attack which his writings received from the side of purely literary criticism was a review by C... Continue reading book >>

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